Australian euthanasia doctor battles deregistration

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Philip Nitschke in Darwin  

On Wednesday the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal wrapped up three days of appeal hearings launched by Philip Nitschke, director of the euthanasia lobby group Exit International, against the suspension of his medical registration in July.

The South Australian Branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) acted after the media revealed that Nitschke did not try to dissuade a Perth man, Nigel Brayley, from committing suicide. Suicide prevention associations were outraged.

The Medical Board contended that it used its emergency powers to protect vulnerable suicidal people from Mr Nitschke and his "dangerous ideas".

Since 2012 when an officer of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australia’s drugs regulator, made a complaint concerning an alleged attempt by Nitschke to import Nembutal, a further 11 formal complaints have been made to the medical watchdog, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

I initiated… click here to read whole article and make comments



What do we know about Brittany Maynard’s death?

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Did Brittany Maynard die freely? This is the question that must be asked after the attractive 29-year-old woman with a brain tumour announced earlier in the week that she would probably postpone the assisted suicide she had scheduled for Saturday, November 1.

"I still feel good enough, and I still have enough joy — and I still laugh and smile with my friends and my family enough — that it doesn't seem like the right time right now," she said in a YouTube video.

Sometime, yes, but not Saturday.

It must have been a bitter pill for Compassion & Choices, the assisted suicide lobby group which had used her as a poster girl for its campaign for legalisation. The members of its boards of directors and advisors are nearly all in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Here was a winsome and articulate woman in her… click here to read whole article and make comments



Brittany Maynard decides to live—UPDATED

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A few hours after this was posted, Brittany Maynard's death was announced. MercatorNet will repost shortly. 

There can be no more persuasive explanation than an attractive, intelligent young woman with tears trickling down her cheeks. As she dabs at her eyes, the trembling words always sound heart-piercingly right. Perhaps from an evolutionary perspective, we’re programmed to agree with her, because young women need to be protected so that they can live to have a family.

It’s the tears that sweep us away in the videos which Brittany Maynard has made with assisted suicide activists at Compassion and Choices, not the ideas. With more than 9 million hits on YouTube, it must have been the best-ever advertisement for right-to-die lobby. The ideas are pretty shop-worn. Marcia Angell, a campaigner for assisted suicide and a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, puts them in a nutshell in a recent Washington Post op-ed: “people are increasingly asking why anyone… click here to read whole article and make comments



The illusion of “peace of mind”

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dripOn October 15th  , the Supreme Court of Canada began hearing an appeal by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association on assisted suicide. Since then various National Post columnists have shared their views on the topic. 

Three key words tend to drive supporters of assisted suicide:  control, autonomy and dignity. I do wish, however, that writers would take better care in defining their understanding of these concepts; if they did we would probably realize that the supporters and opponents are not that far apart in their views. After all, who does not wish to have control over his or her life and to exercise self-determination? And who would not agree when asked: Do you want to die with dignity?

The dividing line is the degree to which we believe we can trespass on another life. For some, this boundary exists since the dawn of humanity and to infringe it represents a homicide. For… click here to read whole article and make comments



Rejecting euthanasia, respecting the human spirit

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A Woman's Face in B&W - The Beauty of a Good, Lived Life / Thailand 
Flickr / Ronn aka "Blue" Aldaman


Recently, Jonathan Kay, John Moore and I participated in a panel on CBC’s The National, discussing assisted suicide and euthanasia. Kay supported extreme individual autonomy: Whatever their reason, competent adults should have the right to euthanasia. Moore proposed some conditions, such as terminal illness, on exercising that right. I argued that we should reject euthanasia, in part, because it’s dangerous for vulnerable people and society.

Subsequently, both Kay and Moore wrote articles for the Post supporting their views and decrying mine.

Kay characterized Canadian society as “post-religious.” Pondering why such a society would oppose legalizing euthanasia, he writes: “But the remnants of religious belief play a role, too. Deep down, many of the… click here to read whole article and make comments



Canada at a deadly crossroads

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Dear fellow Canadians,

On Wednesday, October 15 the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the appeal in the Carter case. It will decide whether the Criminal Code’s prohibition of assisted suicide is constitutional. If the prohibition is struck down, doctors will be involved in assisted suicide and euthanasia. As physicians, we have followed with a growing sense of dismay the public debate over whether to introduce into medical practice the act of inflicting death. We write to you today to give a medical perspective on this crucial debate.

It is a long standing commitment of the medical profession ‘To cure sometimes, to relieve suffering often, and to comfort always.’ It is a breach of that commitment to inflict death. The World Medical Association and the near-totality of national medical associations agree that intentionally ending patients’ lives is not an ethically acceptable part of the physician’s role. This… click here to read whole article and make comments



Is there meaning in suffering?

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The debate about euthanasia is heating up. Most questions of modern medical ethics arise from new technologies that present new questions. Yet, euthanasia has nothing fundamentally to do with technology; the concept of mercy-killing is ancient. Few cultures, however, have ever embraced human euthanasia as morally acceptable. What has changed in Canada today to bring back the debate?

Many things. Among the most important is our culture's growing sense of nihilism about suffering and its significance. Owing partially to our material wealth, we have come to see pain as a difficult aberration in life rather than as a meaningful part of it. As such, when we see ourselves or loved ones in pain, we want it simply to end — immediately.

This is problematic since pain is a part of every life ever lived. From the agony of birth, to that first heartbreak, to our own inevitable… click here to read whole article and make comments



There’s no “mushy middle” on euthanasia

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Many know the saying “You have to fish or cut bait”. Many fewer know the law’s equivalent, “You can’t approbate and reprobate”. But the Canadian Medical Association’s recent dealing with their 2007 Policy on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide makes it seem they are unaware of the warning and wisdom these axioms communicate.

That CMA policy unambiguously declares: "Canadian physicians should not participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide."  Despite that, a motion passed at the recent CMA General Council meeting, which ostensibly was meant only to ensure freedom of conscience, has allowed the CMA to make the following statement in its intervener factum in the upcoming appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case:

“As long as such practices [as euthanasia and assisted suicide] remain illegal, the CMA believes that physicians should not participate in medical aid in dying. If the law were to… click here to read whole article and make comments



This man will die from a lethal injection where they do it best. In Belgium

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A prisoner has been allowed by a Belgian court to undergo euthanasia. Claiming that he is unable to control the violent sexual urges which impelled him to commit several rapes and a murder, 50-year-old Frank Van Den Bleeken wants to die. “My life has now absolutely no meaning. They may as well put a flower pot here,” he said in a television documentary earlier this year. He says that he is suffering “unbearable psychological anguish”.

Mr Van Den Bleeken's crimes go back to the late 1980s. At his trial, he was found not to be criminally responsible and was incarcerated in the psychiatric wing of Merksplas, an ageing penal complex near Antwerp. More recently he was moved the psychiatric wing of Turnhout, a another ageing prison. It appears that in neither place did he receive adequate psychological treatment. This is not uncommon in Belgium, which has… click here to read whole article and make comments



A compassionate society prevents suicide; it doesn’t promote it

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Here in Australia another World Suicide Prevention Day has passed uneventfully. Suicide Prevention Australia made some touching TV advertisements which made me cringe at the pain felt by those left behind. Their anguish is something we too often forget.

As Lifeline, the suicide prevention organisation, puts it, “Suicide loss can impact on physical and mental health. It’s important people bereaved by suicide are treated with compassion and support. They may experience: shock, numbness, denial; searching for reasons ‘why?’; guilt; anger/blame; despair; listlessness; stigma and shame; loneliness and disconnection; depression; thoughts of suicide themselves.”

This message does not seem to be getting through to the media, however. An Australian Senator, David Leyonhjelm, published a libertarian argument for assisted suicide in OnLine Opinion shortly before Suicide Prevention Day. “It is fine to promote the treatment of depression and palliative care,” he wrote. “But it is not acceptable to claim their availability… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Careful! is MercatorNet's blog about end-of-life issues. We respect the dignity of each person from the beginning of life to its natural end. Leave your comments at the foot of our articles. The more the better! Write to us at

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